As University of Guyana (UG) workers threaten to return to industrial action if their salaries are not paid by Thursday, the student leadership has called on both the unions and the administration to honour their resumption agreement and ensure they do not take any decision that further disadvantages students.
The UG Workers Union (UGWU) and the UG Senior Staff Association (UGSSA), in a joint statement yesterday, said the university’s administration has repeatedly violated the Terms of Resumption (TOR) Agreement, which was signed to ensure that they returned to the classroom on March 3, bringing an end to five weeks of industrial action.
The unions, in a statement signed by UGWU’s Bruce Haynes and UGSSA’s Mellissa Ifill, said despite the violations of the agreement, they are willing to give the administration one more opportunity at attempting to hold a fruitful negotiation meeting.
University of Guyana Students Society (UGSS) President Joshua Griffith yesterday said what has occurred is distasteful and warned that students will not “take lightly to further terrorizations to our academic future.”
The unions, in their statement, said a meeting was held last Friday and the union members agreed on several issues.
According to the statement, members will resist all attempts to impose “work-back-times” that have been determined without agreement from the unions and that the backlog to “work back” must be connected to the strike period. It was stated that the unions have a commitment from the Personnel Division that this clause in the TOR agreement will be honoured and as such no deviations will be tolerated.
The unions said that any monies deducted from February salaries must be paid in their March salaries and more so all March, 2015 salaries must be paid, including the agreed 10% increase, by the usual university pay day—Thursday, March 19. The retroactive 10% increase for the months of January and February are also to be paid by March 19, the unions said, adding that failure to do so would constitute “yet another violation of the TOR Agreement signed, and strong and immediate strike action will be taken.”
The statement added that notwithstanding the unproductive nature of the first negotiation meeting following the workers’ resumption of duties and the administration’s blunt refusal to meet any of their demands, the unions’ negotiators would give the negotiations process one more opportunity and attend another negotiations meeting. The statement said that if the second meeting produces similar “intractable attitudes” from the UG Negotiating Team, the unions will withdraw from the process and staff will re-engage in various forms of industrial action to highlight our grievances with the process.
The unions said that their members have agreed that a PR campaign will be launched “to fully expose both locally and internationally the various violations of the TOR agreement by the UG’s Senior Administration.”
It said too that a petition to be launched calling for the resignation/dismissal of Vice Chancellor Jacob Opadeyi and his senior administrative group led by a group of academics will be fully supported by the unions in light of “ poor management of the University and the extremely bad faith demonstrated thus far following our return to work.”
Meanwhile, Griffith, in a Facebook post to the university’s student populace, said that in principle the failure of either unions or administration/council to honour the terms of the agreements signed March 2, 2015 “is distasteful and a threat to the trust of students.”
He said the UGSS calls on the administration to honour the terms of resumption agreement and to ensure that any decision taken is not to the further detriment of students.
Griffith also called on the unions to “press” their members for the immediate submission of all student grades and to ensure that lecturers put steps in place to accommodate students who may have missed classes during the industrial action as was agreed. “We have suffered significantly and at this juncture we call on both unions and administration/council to honour their agreements,” he stressed.